This cruise was a family trip to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday so our group consisted of active parents (80 and 83), my brother, my husband and our 3 year old daughter. After reading the previous reviews, I was a little worried that this would be a disaster and we would all get sick (a little more on the sick part later). It was quite the contrary -- we all enjoyed this cruise a lot!
EMBARKATION at S.F.: Wow! From arrival at the pier via limo to actually getting on the boat couldn't have taken more than ten minutes (and most of those were walking from checkpoint to the entrance). Princess really has this down pat; it was a stress-free and enjoyable start of the trip. We all looked happy in the embarkation photo and for good reason.
ACCOMODATIONS: We had a deluxe ocean view on the Baja deck. It was roomier than the usual inside cabin I am accustomed to on other ships since I don't spend a lot of time in the room. There's a nice sitting area under the window, a nice sized desk, and your luggage (even the behemoth that my husand brought) will all fit under the bed. There were stains on the carpet so that cabin could use a renno. The boat itself is older and the rooms could use some attention but the common areas were just fine. Our cabin steward was great and getting your room cleaned twice a day was fabulous. He seemed to always know when we were gone whether we put up the little privacy sign or not.
ACTIVITIES: With a few days at sea, you have to look to the ship for entertainment. I found the shows to be nice, it's not Vegas or 25 years ago so most of shows are more like lounge acts. We saw two musicals, a comedian, a magician, and a comedian/musician (this guy stood out,Duncan Tuck plays a mean guitar). The rest were all moderately entertaining and a nice way to kill a few hours in the evening. The casino is small and no craps table :-( I don't know if the casino games change from cruise to cruise so on ours there was a blackjack table, roulette, slots, and some poker tables. There are also lots of tables for people to play other games like cards, board games, Mah Jong, etc. Some brought their own games and there were a few on a table that I assume belong to the ship. My mom won two mini-jackpots on the slot machines (around $500) so she was ecstatic. The only game there we (hubby and I) would have played was blackjack and that table minimum was $10.00 which is too much for us. There were $5.00 black jacks nights but they were variation games, like Fun Black Jack and Face Up Black Jack which according to my brother are games with horrible odds. There were scheduled trivia games, giant Jenga, treasure hunts, bingo with a running jackpot that is paid out on the last day if not eariler) and many other activities that are too many too list and I can't remember all of them.
FOOD: We had set dining at 5:30 PM and never waited to be seated. This is the way to go. The food is overall good. Some entree's were great and some were not so much, so if you don't like something you can always ask for something else. The buffet was not that great but will do in a pinch, we only went there a few times. The pizza restaurant was good with limited choices but there were long lines to get in so we only ate there once. Okay, because around the 4th day the norovirus resurfaced, the buffet went back to having the staff serve the food and this was ridiculous because they really aren't staffed for that and it negated the convenience of getting your own food quickly. Room service is 24 hrs., was fast the few times we ordered. The food options are limited, but good in a pinch. Our waiter (hi JoJo!) was awesome and gave my daughter a lot of attention so she adored him. Food comes our quickly and professionally.
SERVICE: I found the staff/service to be very friendly and helpful. It does appear that the majority are international employees and some can be more reserved than others (perhaps the language issue) but overall the majority seem to try to be accomodating and friendly about it. You will always find some folks just not happy with their jobs no matter what they're doing or where they are.
CHILDREN'S CLUB: My daughter was a Princess Pelican (ages 3-7) and they have a small area on the ship with good security measures. They are open on sea days from 8-12, 1-5, and 6-10. They have a limited amount of pagers so if you don't get one, there's a number you can call to check on your child. On excursion days, the hours were extended and not broken up, e.g. 8-5 and 6-10. My daughter enjoyed it the first two days, didn't want to go a few times, then was asking to go towards the end. That's kids for you. She goes to preschool at home so she is used to being around a lot of other children. The staff seemed nice and there were scheduled activities such as art, dancing, jewelry making, etc. You get a little schedule of activities for each day in your stateroom on the firt day. She didn't go every day or every session and went with us on excursions, but it was wonderful to have this no-fee service available.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We researched the options in advance and knew what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, reserving in advance using their online system closes a few days before the cruise so by the time I was ready, I couldn't reserve online. Not a big deal because my brother and husband booked after we got on the ship. There are many to choose from! I would do the research in advance and have an idea (1st choice, 2nd choice) etc. of what you want to do.
DISEMBARKATION: See emarkation, this was so easy, even collecting our luggage in the designated area was great as things were kept together.
OVERALL: We had a great time and would cruise with Princess again. The price was great for what we got.